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"Can you believe it, Moony?" Sirius asks excitedly for what must be the fifth time tonight. "Our Lily, up the duff."

As crudely put as it is, Remus smiles a bit. From the moment they'd stepped out of the Potters' front door, Sirius had begun carrying on about this huge announcement. He's so thrilled—and rightfully so—that anyone passing them on the park pathway would think Lily is having his baby, not James'.

It's the perfect evening for such an announcement, Remus thinks. Christmas is in three days, and the baby gives them one more reason to celebrate. And tonight is the first proper snowfall of the season, which instills in him a certain serenity. Somehow the war is far from his mind, existing like an echo instead of a bang, for which Remus is eternally grateful. Good news, peace, and happiness are all scarce commodities these days.

When Remus pulls himself from his thoughts, it takes him a moment to realize that Sirius has stopped walking next to him. Turning, he sees Sirius several steps behind, standing beside a bench in the yellow light of a street lamp. He recognizes the bench—a bench that, as of this past month, has become familiar to the both of them. Sirius calls it "our bench" just as he called the steps in front of his old flat "our steps". And just as the old steps were a place of many memories—of arguments, and stolen kisses, and breathless I-love-yous—this bench, with Sirius' recent move, has become their new place.

There aren't so many kisses and I-love-yous now as there are arguments. Or rather, an argument, one that they were hashing out even before Sirius' relocation. Remus has come to dread the spot because Sirius never fails to stop at it every time Remus walks him home to his new flat.

Knowing that Sirius isn't going to move without having this horrible conversation again, Remus sighs. Frosty wind nips at his cheeks as he walks back to a now less cheerful Sirius and pauses just in front of him. He wants to reach out to Sirius, to take Sirius' hand into his own. The park is busy tonight though, and Remus won't risk someone taking a violent offense to two men holding hands.

"You should come up to the flat tonight," Sirius says softly, almost painfully.

Remus hates that melancholy lilt to his voice. What he detests even more is that he's partly responsible for it. But Sirius just doesn't understand, despite all that Remus tries to make him.

Remus casts his eyes away from Sirius'. "Not tonight."

"I have something absolutely brilliant to show you though."

"How many times have I heard that line before?" he asks, a smirk tugging at the corner of his lips.

"But I'm not talking about my cock this time!" Sirius defends, not unlike a child.

Reaching out, Remus takes the edge of Sirius' blue scarf into hand and is reminded why this one is his favorite; it makes Sirius' grey eyes pop in even the dimmest of lighting. His thumbnail catches against the soft threading, his knuckles brushing against the smooth leather of Sirius' jacket. It's easy to get lost in the details that make Sirius who he is, and Remus would rather be lost than face that inevitable question.

"Why won't you move in with me?" Sirius presses gently, his voice husky and deep.

"I've told you before."

"No, you've told me you won't, but not why."

It's a complicated question, that. Why won't he move in with Sirius? Well to begin with, there is no way he would ever be able to afford to live in that posh flat in this posh neighborhood. Remus hadn't been able to find any decent paying employment in Wizarding London, so he'd been forced to settle for working part-time at a Muggle music shop. What he earns in a month wouldn't cover even a half of the rent.

And then there is the issue of telling his mum and dad he'd be leaving the nest, which would go over about as well as his subtle mention of joining the war effort, no doubt. Perhaps even worse, now that he considers it. And none of this is even taking into consideration the sheer implications that—

"Is it…I mean, do you not love me anymore?" Sirius whispers, hurt.

Remus' head snaps up, eyes wide. "What?"

Their gazes meet, and Remus is pierced by the pain in Sirius' eyes. What makes matters worse is the look on Sirius' face that tells Remus he's convinced that a lack of love must be the reason why Remus isn't moving in.

Here, out in public, Remus can't take him into his arms like he would in the privacy of their own homes, or kiss him, or do anything to reassure him physically that he does love him. And it's a struggle to form any comforting words when his mind is reeling from such a question. So he stands there, helpless.

"That's why you won't move in, why you haven't come over, why we haven't had a decent shag in a month and a half. It has to be. That's the only logical explanation."

"That's…that's not logical at all," Remus counters, finally finding his voice. "And for your information, we have shagged in the past month and a half."

"Yeah, if you want to count that post-Order meeting blow job on the back porch. What I'm trying to get at is that I haven't had your cock up my arse in—"

Sirius tirade drops off suddenly when they both realize that an old lady walking her small dog is staring at them bug-eyed. Sirius' cheeks flair up, bright red, and Remus feels his own grow uncomfortably warm. The old woman picks up her pace exponentially, probably taking them for a pair of perverts.

"Look," Sirius begins, tone still harsh but considerably quieter, "I just want to know, alright? Give me one good reason, and I'll shut up about it for good."

"It's just…complicated, Padfoot," he explains, defeated.

"So simplify it for me. I can take it, you know. Whatever it is you have to say, I'll be alright."

His guilt becoming too heavy to bear, Remus sits on the bench and stares at his shoes. He wants to explain himself to Sirius, but all he can think of are pitiful words that won't make Sirius feel any better. And it's not as if what he has to say is bad. He's not going to tell Sirius he doesn't love him, or that there's someone else, or any number of other difficult things to explain. However, that doesn't make the words any easier to voice, mostly because he can already foresee Sirius' reaction.

"I really love you," Remus says, as Sirius sits next to him. "That's not the issue. I just…I haven't the money to split the costs of living together. And I don't want to be your charity case."

Sirius sighs heavily. "I know that, love. But look…alright, you're sick. And as of now, there's no cure for it—"

"Don't you think I know that?!" Remus growls, in part due to his own insecurities about his condition.

"Just listen, please. You might never get better. Laws are going to change, sometimes for the worse. But the good thing is that I can support us, no matter what happens. And I want to support us. All you have to do is put aside your pride and let me."

Remus hates being mothered, hates when anyone uses his condition as a means of handicapping him. It always hurts worst when it's Sirius who does it because the differences between them contrast starkly: a privileged, handsome, rich boy and a middle-class, terminally ill boy without an ounce of hope. They shouldn't be together, and yet they are. Each time he realizes that he, Remus Lupin, is dating Sirius Black, he finds himself lost in the absurdity of it all.

But all that aside, Remus can't ignore the truth to Sirius' words. He isn't getting better. Despite all of his studies, his scouring all corners of magical fields, he may never get better. Regulations are always going to be harsh. He's always been someone's burden, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. The prospect of being Sirius' burden, however, is too overwhelming, even if Sirius wants it.

"You can't take away my right to support myself, Sirius."

"I'm not trying to—"

"I need this. I need a way to go about my day to day life like a normal person. The Ministry has already stolen away most of my rights to do so, and this is one of the only things I have left. Working gives me a purpose." Remus looks Sirius in the eye. "I…I don't want to be your kept man. I don't think I could bear that."

Sirius nods slowly. "Alright. You win. But you have to promise—"

"Sirius."

"Promise me," he continues, stubbornly, "that if you ever need anything–if Mummy has had enough of your sorry arse or if the Ministry's werewolf employment regulations change—you'll come to me, Remus."

"Thanks," Remus says sheepishly. "I promise."

Sirius takes his hand into his own, and Remus tries to tug it away, fearful of being seen by passersby. Sirius doesn't let him though, his grip strong and comforting. Defeated, Remus relaxes. With a reassuring squeeze of his hand, Sirius lets him know that everything is alright between them.

"Come up to my flat," Sirius begs. "Let me give you a tour. I swear that I won't try to coerce you into moving in now that we know where we stand."

Remus looks up into his eyes, relieved. "Really?"

"Really," he replies, sounding a bit defeated. "We can just shag, or if you don't want to do that, I can make you some cocoa." Remus feels Sirius brush the tip of his nose, grey eyes gazing at him adoringly. "Warm you up before I send you back home."

Despite how terrible he feels about crushing Sirius' hopes, Remus can't resist a shy smile. He loves when Sirius shows him tender affection—a gentle brush of the fingers, a knocking of their knees, a for-Remus-only smile, a barely there kiss on his eyelids. While he hates mothering, he can't possibly hate Sirius looking after him.

"Come along now," Sirius calls, offering his hand to Remus to help him up.

Remus doesn't take it, though not because he doesn't want to, and instead gets up on his own, returning to Sirius' side. They do brush shoulders, though, and Sirius offers him one of those flirty smiles that reach his slate-grey eyes. And when he does this, Remus' insides come alive as if something so simple can breathe life into him, make him forget all of those more horrific aspects of his thus far shitty life.

"I hope you have something better than that rubbish instant cocoa you force fed me last time," Remus teases.

Sirius' bark of laughter fills both him and the snowy, night sky.

~*~

Walking into Sirius' new flat takes a fair amount of courage, especially since Remus has been avoiding the issue for over a month now. His gut twists as the key turns in Sirius' hand, and before he knows it, the door is being pushed open.

Sirius flips on the light and begins shedding his coat as Remus steps inside. For a moment, Remus avoids taking in the sight of the living room, afraid that he might like it.

He feels Sirius slip his arms around his waist, feels the hardness of Sirius' body against his own. The half embrace both relaxes him and arouses him, and Remus wonders how he ever managed to stay away from the safe haven of Sirius' flat for so many weeks. There's a kiss to his forehead, light and warm, followed by a nuzzle, so very like Padfoot's. Remus allows himself to lean forward, his hips resting against Sirius', their bodies aligning wonderfully.

"Open your eyes."

He does and finds Sirius' face consuming his line of vision—his high cheekbones, straight nose, dark lashes set against ivory skin. Remus' breath grows slightly heavy, his prick slightly hard, and he is reminded of reunions after long summers apart, of catching first sight of one another after the winter holidays, of the breaking of terrible, built up longing between them. Three years into their on-again-off-again relationship, and Remus thinks it's time to admit that he's an addict. Six weeks without having Sirius feels like an eternity, and he wonders what would become of him in a world without Sirius.

Sirius tangles their fingers together, pulling him to the couch so that the front of his hips rest against the back of the sofa, Sirius standing behind him. From here, Remus gets his first good look at the room and is a little stunned. It embodies everything that Sirius is: sleek, refined, masculine, Black.

The furniture must have cost a small fortune, an expense that Sirius likely took great pleasure in indulging in. Walls are painted dark, carpet colored light, the sofa made of suede, the coffee and end tables oak. To the right sits a small dining suit—new, strong, rich—that is unfamiliar to Remus, and he feels a particular longing for the beat up table and chairs in Sirius' shabby old apartment—his boyhood apartment. This is the apartment of a man.

"So what do you think?" Sirius asks, voice tantalizingly deep.

Sirius presses himself into Remus' arse, his stiff cock making Remus forget the words to his response. Remus does, however, manage a whispered moan and can't quite resist pushing back into Sirius. It's been too long, painfully long, and Sirius feels too good.

"S'nice," Remus strangles from his throat. "If it a bit posh."

"Not posh." And Sirius turns Remus in his arms so they are chest to chest, cock to cock. "I just have brilliant taste. In all manners of speaking."

The implication is clearly made as Sirius runs a finger down Remus' chest, simultaneously rolling his hips just so. Remus gasps at the contact, and then Sirius draws a long whimper from him with a peppering of kisses and nips to his neck.

"Thought…thought you said that—Ah!—that, um…you wanted to give me a—Sirius—er, a…a thing."

Withdrawing his hand from Remus' just-unzipped trousers, Sirius looks up, wide grin pulling at his lips. "A thing?"

Remus takes Sirius' wrist, guiding it back into his trousers. "A tour."

Sirius' fingers circle around him, giving him one slow, twisting pump. Laying his forehead against Sirius' shoulder, Remus bites his bottom lip, resisting the urge to moan with every stroke. The feeling is really too wonderful for words—head spinning, body melting, concentration gradually focusing in on the building sensation—and Remus finds himself thrusting in time with Sirius' pumps.

"I promised a tour, a shag, and a cup of cocoa," Sirius begins, and Remus can feel him smiling against his temple, "but not necessarily in that order."

With the promise of an immediate shag, Remus is struck by the sudden warmth of the room, feels the uncomfortable heat rising to the surface of his skin. It takes him a moment, but then he realizes that he's still in his coat.

It's painful, but Remus stops meeting Sirius stroke-for-stroke. Untangling himself, though not without noticing Sirius' pout, Remus sheds his coat along with his jumper, leaving him in a well-worn tee. His over-warm skin sings with the contact of the much cooler air, and his eyes devour Sirius as he watches him shed his own shirt.

Remus is struck by a sudden need to touch Sirius as he stands before him, shirtless with the waist of his favorite denims riding low on his protruding hips. He can't quite stop himself from following the trail of dark hair from Sirius' navel, lower, and lower still, right to the straining bulge of his denims. Remus reaches out, the pads of his fingers traveling across the skin of Sirius' shoulder and downwards across smooth, soft flesh, flush with want. His finger slips across one hard nipple, and Remus watches, transfixed, at the jerk of Sirius' hips.

Across Sirius' slim stomach, Remus' fingers touch and press and massage until they meet denim, drawing a symphony of notes from Sirius' mouth. Rather than push further downwards, Remus slides his hand across Sirius' hip and beneath the waist of his trousers to his arse.

Fingers slip between his cheeks, seeking out his entrance. Remus presses into the muscle ever-so-slightly, and Sirius draws a sharp breath. The further he presses, the louder Sirius becomes until Remus has one finger sheathed inside him.

"Moony," Sirius says, breathlessly, "Need you to come inside me tonight, love."

Brown eyes meet lust-clouded grey, and Remus whispers, "I want that."

Sirius glances towards the corridor. "Bedroom."

The idea of moving seems like an impossible task just now and Remus looks longingly first to the couch and then to the floor. Sirius, apparently, has read his mind.

"It really has to be the bed. Brand new and needs a proper breaking in. Been thinking about having you in it for weeks."

It's with a begrudging sigh that Remus slips away from Sirius and allows himself to be led down the corridor to the bedroom. They struggle to get there, fumbling between kisses and touches and the shedding of very unnecessary clothing.

Not having Sirius entirely drives Remus to the brink of madness, and it's with great relief that they step through the doorway to the bedroom. With a wave of his hand, Sirius raises the lights.

Except the lights don't really come on, or not entirely, at least. There must be a dimmer—Muggle or magical—placed on them, and Remus finds himself approving.

The low illumination from the wall lamps gives an erotic ambiance to the earth-toned room. And the four poster bed—large, sheer curtained, inviting—adds that much more to the feel of the space. There is no doubt that Sirius had sex in mind when he was decorating. It's as if he'd wanted to make it so Remus would never leave that bed, this room, this luxurious flat. And, as much as Remus is loathe to admit it, he doesn't want to ever want to leave this place—or the comfort of Sirius' arms—again.

In his momentary distraction, Remus almost misses Sirius step past him towards the bed, a smug expression on his face. With a fluidity that is all his own, Sirius lays back across the bed—knees bent, legs spread, hands at his sides, eyes transfixed on Remus.

He's a sight—beautiful, open, ready. This slow, lazy seduction could probably make Remus come alone, but he wants to bury himself deep within Sirius, make him writhe and gasp. And from the look in his depthless gaze, he knows that Sirius wants it, too.

With a few quick steps, Remus crawls onto the bed and settles himself between Sirius' legs. They share a look, and Remus drinks in the lust that has manifested itself into every curve and line of Sirius' finely sculpted face. The bow of his barely parted lips, the half-lidded gaze of his dark eyes, everything about Sirius invites him in. His skin is almost olive in the low lighting, and inky black locks, cut to mid-neck length, fan out around his head like a halo.

Slowly Remus leans down. Lips brush lips, part, and then embrace fully. A crush, a nip, a flick of the tongue. Remus takes Sirius' lower lip between his, sucking gently, and can feel the shifting of Sirius' legs against him. Without having to request permission, Sirius is opening his mouth for him and Remus eagerly slips inside. Tongues dance, overpower, seek. Sirius tastes like the tart they had for afters, like the cigarette he smoked on their walk back, and like something so undeniably Sirius that Remus has never, in all these years, been able to place.

He draws back, knowing that neither of them will be able to last like this—not after having been without touch for a long while. Remus adjusts Sirius' legs just slightly before bringing a finger between his cheeks, pressing against his entrance once more. The incantation for the lubrication charm dies on his lips as he discovers that Sirius has wandless-ly, wordlessly, oh-so-Sirius-ly beat him to it.

"Told you I needed you," he says unapologetically, voice deep with want.

Remus arches an eyebrow. "So badly you don't need any preparation?"

"Now, now, Moony, we can be gentlemen about this."

In a most ungentlemanly fashion, Remus pushes two fingers inside Sirius. Back arching suddenly, lips pulled tight, eyes shut, Sirius sucks in a deep breath and then pants away the momentary discomfort. And it is momentary because Remus can feel Sirius ease around him, feel him move on him. Pants turn into easy breaths turn into mewls.

Remus works him into relaxation and then positions himself, pressing into Sirius. It's always hard to form words initially despite how much he longs to, the tightness encasing him stripping him of all means of communication until he's nothing more than a beast. Remus can moan—and God how he moans—and can remember how to thrust, first out and then in. And soon they're falling into a familiar pattern, Remus rocking into Sirius as Sirius moves to meet him.

The pooling sensation in Remus' cock demands almost all of his attention, the sharp rise and gentle fall, sharp rise and gentle fall inching him nearer and nearer to climax. What little attention he can spare, he focuses on Sirius' cock. He molds long fingers around the shaft, stroking and pumping in time with the snap of his hips, swirling the leaking pre-come around with his thumb.

Sirius is going to be the first to come. Remus can tell by the way his brow furrows, the way his lips pull into an almost grimace, the way his insides begin to clamp too-tightly—and just right—around him. And Remus always feels compelled in this last minute or two to try to get Sirius to come quicker, maybe even unexpectedly. There's a twist-grind to his every thrust, an awareness of the angle so he's sure to hit Sirius' prostate just right each time.

As difficult as it is to figure out how to get his mouth and voice to work in time, Remus manages a breathless, "Come for me, Sirius," and that is Sirius' undoing.

Sirius' mouth drops open, the moan escaping him utterly raw and so loud that it fills the room. Remus feels Sirius clench around him, riding out wave after wave, and is nearly there himself. With one more well timed thrust, the sensation building up inside of him bursts, flooding him with a pleasure-filled warmth. Sirius' name is on his breath, ragged, and he empties himself within Sirius before wilting under his loss of strength.

~*~

Remus rounds the corner to the kitchen after tidying up a bit and examining the few rooms Sirius pointed out to him earlier during their desperate fumble to the bedroom. He's greeted by Sirius—bare-chested, favorite denims hanging low on his waist once more, hair in an after-sex muss—stirring two cups of cocoa.

"Well what do you think?"

"About the sex or about the flat?"

It's a wash really—the answer is "brilliant" no matter what Sirius' question is about. It's easier to play it off like he doesn't know though; it gives him more time to quash the feelings of wanting to live in this place all the time.

"The flat." Sirius smirks. "I know the sex was brilliant."

"Cocky arse," Remus mutters.

"Well?"

Well, the flat is great. Better than great, actually. So wonderful, in fact, that Remus doesn't even want to put his socks on because he likes the feel of the plush carpet beneath his toes. The living room is brilliant. The bath is brilliant. The bedroom is fucking brilliant. There is nothing about the flat that Remus can even force himself to hate, though not for a lack of trying. And there's no use hiding the truth from Sirius.

"I think the place is fantastic."

"Knew you would," he says, claiming his victory with a smile and handing Remus a mug of cocoa. "Here, just like Mummy Lupin makes it, as per your request. So be a good boy now, and drink up."

Ignoring the blatant mockery, Remus takes a sip and feels warmth flow through him. It's delightfully sweet on his tongue, with just a touch of bitterness—an exact replica of his mum's recipe. With another sip, Remus' eyes fall on a door across from the kitchen's doorway. Sirius never mentioned that one, a fact that perks his interest exponentially.

"What's in there?"

"Hmm?" Sirius brings the mug from his lips. "Oh, nothing."

Remus isn't buying it for a moment. "Nothing? Just a fake door then?"

"Let me rephrase that: nothing that would interest you."

"Somehow I doubt that." Remus places his mug on the countertop. "Can I?"

"No, absolutely not," he replies, seriously.

"Why not?"

"Because I promised that I wasn't going to do anything to coerce you into staying. Which I'm not. And which is why you're not allowed to go into that room."

Sirius is really only encouraging his interest in what lies on the other side of that door. Something in there will make him want to stay, and Remus feels himself growing desperate in his curiosity. With a careful discerning of Sirius' expression, Remus is confident that Sirius won't outright keep him from going in the room. And honestly, Remus has reached the point where he'd love to move in, so there really is no damage to be done.

"I'm going in."

"Remus," Sirius growls, punctuating his disapproval with a sigh.

It's too late though; Remus already has the door open and is feeling for the light switch. What he finds when the lights turn on, however, makes his stomach drop. He was completely wrong. There was still some damage to be done. Devastating damage.

Taking several steps into the room, Remus surveys his surroundings: a large, sturdy wooden desk, two walls lined with occupied bookshelves, ancient looking tomes, a small sofa, a giant rug laying on a rich hardwood floor. In short, a study. A fucking incredible study.

Remus turns to Sirius, who is leaning against the door jamb. "This is what you've been trying to get me to come look at for the past month, isn't it?"

"Yeah," he admits, guiltily.

"And the bookshelves, they're made of elm," Remus says slowly upon further inspection. "Just like my wand."

"Of course they are."

Sirius says it with such an obvious tone, as if to ask Remus what else they would possibly be made of. Everything begins to fall into place—Sirius' insistence for weeks that he come up to the flat, Sirius' words about coercion, even the fine details of the wood used in the shelves. And it's with a certain stunned heartbreak that comes with feeling impossibly overvalued that Remus whispers,

"You did this for me."

First instinct tells him to look at Sirius, but Remus can't bear to; he doesn't want to see the confirmation on Sirius' handsome face. Having so long been scorned by society, Remus finds it hard to accept love.

Instead, he steps towards the book shelves, forcing his eyes to the worn spines. The texts, spanning from all different areas of magical study, have something to do with lycanthropy—research, folklore, curses, treatment, evidence for cures. And if that isn't enough to make Remus feel unbelievably unworthy of this man's affection, he comes across one book in particular and grabs it quickly from the shelf.

Helling's Grimoire. Written in 1863. Disappeared without a trace in 1919. Most profound treatise on the nature of the lycanthrope's curse. So valuable that it would take nothing short of a small fortune to procure it.

And Remus holds it in his hands—something that gives his mind pause for several moments. Once his brain begins to work again, Remus clutches the tome to his chest. Despite years of research and dead ends, he can't help but wonder if on the pages of this book he will find the cure he's been searching for since boyhood.

"You remembered," he says, and with great misery realizes that he sounds as weepy as he feels just now.

He'd mentioned the book to Sirius years ago, after Sirius had asked what he wanted for Christmas. His friends love to indulge him with fantastic gifts for the holidays, mostly out of pity for him, he thinks. It had been a joke, an impossible gift. By then the grimoire had been lost for decades. Remus never thought that Sirius would actually remember such a flippant request.

"Did you think I wouldn't?" Sirius asks gently. "Been searching since you mentioned it."

"But it must have cost so much. Sirius, I can't ever repay you for…for everything you've done."

Sirius steps closer now, placing a hand on his upper arm in an attempt at comfort. Remus allows himself to fall against Sirius, and Sirius curls one arm around him. As he places his head on Sirius' shoulder, Helling's Grimoire between them, Remus realizes there are no words to express what he's feeling.

"I don't want your repayment," Sirius explains. "I did this for us. Because I love you, and I'm not going to let a fucking curse take you away from me any sooner than it already will."

It's an issue often avoided ever since it first came up—Remus' impending death. Remus doesn't like to think about how his human shell is failing him, about the grey threading his hair at the tender age of nineteen, about how he's already lived a third of a werewolf's life expectancy. And Sirius is unwilling to accept Remus' fate, perhaps even more than Remus is, which is made perfectly apparent by the thought and money he's put into this room.

"I'm not worth it, you know. All the time and energy you must have put into this."

"My time and energy doesn't mean a thing. Not when you're sick. Nothing means anything until you're better, love."

Remus squeezes his eyes shut, pained. "I might never…"

"You will." Sirius places his fingers beneath Remus' jaw and lifts, eyes looking into eyes. "We're going to beat this."

"And if we don't?"

"Then I'm going to love you. I'm seeing this through to the end, I promise."

The words sting Remus, as does the kiss to his cheek that follows. However morbid, the sentiment means so much to him. Knowing that Sirius will always be there, it somehow makes accepting his fate a little easier, as if he can die gracefully rather than tormented. And that, to Remus, makes all the difference in the world.

Sirius places his forehead against Remus', nose-against-nose, and Remus breaths slower, in time with Sirius. Remus watches him close his eyes, feels Sirius' hand begin to shake against his hip.

"Marry me."

It's not until Remus replays those desperate, whispered words that he understands the meaning behind them. His stomach flips violently with the idea that Sirius isn't joking, and Remus feels his own nerves shaking his very core. In an attempt to convince himself that he must have heard wrong, he asks,

"What?"

Sirius pulls back, and Remus is crushed beneath the weight of the terror in Sirius' eyes.

"Will you marry me?" Sirius repeats, perhaps even more needy this time than the last. "I could get down on one knee if you'd prefer…or something. Anything, Remus. Just tell me what you want me to do."

Remus struggles to form words, a million and one different responses coming to mind and disappearing just as quickly. And apparently Sirius takes this silence as negative and makes a move to get down on bended knee.

"No, stop." Remus grabs his arm with his free hand, halting Sirius' descent. "Please, don't."

Grey eyes stare at him—into him—searching for any possible answer to his question. Remus isn't sure how to respond to the proposal though—truthfully or practically. In the end, he decides to go with what's safe, what will hurt less. Better to avoid the question all together than to give a proper answer—a desperate yes—and know that his response would be scorned by most others.

"There are regulations, Padfoot. I…I'm not allowed to marry. The Ministry doesn't see me as anything more than a Dark Creature. You might as well ask them to acknowledge a marriage between you and a goat."

"So…what does that mean?" Sirius asks slowly, his pain clear in his voice.

"I can't."

Sirius straightens up, and Remus thinks that somehow Sirius has regained some courage. "You can't, or you won't? Because I know you can't, love. Fucking Ministry regulations. What I'm asking is if you will. If you could, would you?"

Remus feels Sirius' fingers intertwine with his, their grasp strong and comforting. And it's with some courage of his own that Remus meets Sirius' gaze. He sees the look of a man in love staring back at him—a man devoted, a man beyond hope.

"If I could, then yes, I would."

The response that Remus expects is not the response that he gets. Rather than some sort of confirmation from Sirius—a few words or a smile, at the very least—Sirius instead slips out of Remus' arms and around the large wooden desk. Pulling out one of the top drawers, Sirius takes something out—something that Remus can't quite make out until a moment later when he realizes it's a small, black box.

Sirius toys with it in his hands momentarily before popping the lid, and Remus catches the glimmer of two silver bands nestled in the cushioning of the box.

"I've had them for a while," Sirius explains. "Maybe even a year. I don't know. Just been waiting for the right moment, you know? But that whole 'right moment' is a load of shite. And I can't wait forever."

For a moment, he's stunned. Had them for a year? But they're…they're only nineteen. Remus knows that Sirius loves him, knows that Sirius is committed to him, but he never imagined…this.

"They're brilliant, Sirius, but I can't wear—"

"Oh no, they're not silver," he says quickly. "White gold, actually. Would have probably been better to just go with actual gold, but silver rings are sort of a Black…thing, and I just…I don't know. It felt right to do it this way."

Remus stares at the box in Sirius' hand longingly, imagining the cool, heavy band around his finger. It's stupid to want this, stupid and girly and Sirius would make fun of him if he could only see what Remus is thinking. But the fact of that matter is that he does want it—want to be claimed as Sirius', want to be reminded of Sirius' commitment to him every time he sees the ring on his finger. And while it wouldn’t be legal, the commitment will be between the two of them alone, a fact which Remus thinks might make it all the more special.

With some trepidation, he says, "Ask me again."

"Will you marry me, Remus?" Sirius repeats, eyes filled with hope.

"Yeah, I will."

The smile that cracks Sirius' lips is contagious, and soon the two of them have their arms wrapped around each other in a tight embrace. Remus never thought he could feel so much happiness at once—a scared happiness, but a happiness all the same.

And it's frightening—what he's just agreed to. What if he can't live up to Sirius' expectations? What if he can't be a proper…a proper husband? He and Sirius have broken up before, have had horrible fights before, have all but sworn never to see each other again. And Sirius has habits. He doesn't pick up after himself. He's arrogant, vain, desperately needy. Jealous—Christ, how he's jealous.

Everyone has these feelings though, he thinks. Sirius is probably thinking the same thing he is. But it'll be okay, despite all the worries. It has to be. No matter what comes between them—and some very serious things have in the past—they somehow work their way back to one another. It's something that gives Remus hope. They'll work through it because they always have.

"Should I…?" Sirius asks, gesturing to the ring between his thumb and index finger.

"Oh, right."

Remus holds out his left hand for Sirius, ring finger slightly raised. Sirius takes Remus' hand, steadying it, before slipping the band slowly around his finger. It feels foreign to Remus, but not unpleasantly so.

"I feel like I ought to say something. Vows, you know? Like James made to Lily," Sirius says. "Only, you know, without all the tears."

Remus laughs at the memory of James' half-sobbed vows. "Please don't. It'll get back to James, and then you'll never hear the end of it."

Sirius pauses a moment, as if he's wracking his mind for the words to say. "I should have prepared for this."

"You don't have—"

"No, I do. It's just not going to be eloquent or anything." Sirius takes in a deep breath. "I love you. And I know that's a stupid way to start, but it's the truth. We've been through so much together, and yet somehow you don't hate me, which I find terribly surprising. But part of me knew from the beginning that you were different.

"You're just so…bloody fascinating. What with your Muggle quirks, and maddening thoroughness. And every day, even after all these years, I still learn something new about you or rediscover you in some way. I've never felt that with another person, and sometimes that's the only thing that keeps me going day after day. I get this feeling in my gut every time I look at you, and I think, 'there's never going to be someone like him again'. Not in the obvious way, but I mean, there's something about you specifically that brings out something in me. A sort of goodness that I'm not capable of without you. And I…I guess that's what I wanted to say."

Remus feels this throat tighten from the words, deeply touched. He hates when Sirius decides to vocalize his love for him; it embarrasses him. Not because it's bad, but because Remus feels like he can't possibly be all those things that Sirius likes to describe him as. Fighting back his emotions, Remus takes a deep breath, exhales, and feels slightly better.

"Alright, my turn."

Remus plucks the second ring from the box, lifts Sirius' hand, and slips it on just as slowly as Sirius had his. He watches as Sirius bites his lip, Sirius' eyes focused on the ring now gracing his finger.

"Don't cry," Remus warns, smiling.

"I won't," Sirius returns, though there is a distinct thickness to his voice.

"You've done more for me, Sirius, than anyone. Broken rules, broken laws, let yourself be a target for bigotry because of your relationship with—"

"Remus, that's nothing."

"Hush, Padfoot," Remus scolds, softly. "I won't ever be able to thank you enough for that alone. And for loving me, despite the fact that I'm a monst—"

"Sick, love. You're ill," Sirius jumps to correct, his expression gentle and loving.

Remus feels the tears welling in his eyes, feels them and damns them for existing. This always gets him—Sirius' insistence that he's not what everyone else claims he is, that he's sick and not an "other". That this condition is something that was done to him, not something he afflicted upon himself.

He can't continue; he's losing it. And the only thing he can think to do is wrap his arms tightly around Sirius until they're almost one body. For several heavy moments, he cries softly into the crook of Sirius' neck and hears Sirius sniff back what must be his own tears.

"Oh hell, I buggered it up," Remus chokes out.

Remus feels Sirius shake his head. "No, you didn't."

"I love you, Pads. And everything else I want to say sort of pales in comparison. So just…know that. Ever since I started having feelings for you, I knew it could only ever be you."

Sirius places a warm, wet kiss on his forehead, his breath hot against Remus' flesh. Remus tilts his head, meeting Sirius half-way for a deep kiss. Tear-swollen lips meet tear-swollen lips. They tug, crush against one another, and part. Sirius' tongue invades Remus' mouth, and Remus is oh-so-willing to be captured. And when they're left breathless, Sirius breaks away, smiling.

"So what do we do next, Mrs. Black?"

With a laugh, Remus shoves Sirius off of him, playfully. "As if I'm the girl in this relationship!"

Sirius is quick to pounce back onto him, and Remus pretends to push off his advances. It's with a few more pounce-push exchanges that they're reduced to a tangle of arms and legs and winded laughter. Sirius peppers teasing kisses along Remus' neck, half-whispering half-laughing something about consummating their marriage.

There's something special about tonight, something that keeps the darkness at bay. They're in the middle of a war, fighting on a losing side. And he himself is fighting his own losing battle with his lycanthropy. Nothing looks promising, and yet Remus is senselessly hopeful about everything. Guilt strikes him because of that at first, but Remus thinks, if only for tonight, he's going to let himself be happy.